It usually makes for a great photo-op, doesn’t it?
When Bahamians achieve the level of success that Bahamas Basketball’s Sr MNT has, you get to hear “The Bahamas” over and over again in the international media, giving us all that euphoric sense of pride. We love for the international community to tout the rags to riches story-lines:
Best little country in the world…. and all that
This is particularly true in sports where the triumph of the quaint underdog is meant to pique interest, endear them to the masses, and eventually sell ad space.
The Bahamas gets some free publicity, politicians make trips to the events, they use the story as fodder for stump speeches, or in special cases, they parade these athletes through the House of Assembly to listen to a few hours of shouting and name-calling.
Then, of course, there’s the ceremony where the self-perceived “stakeholders” would have their say (that none of us want to hear) and If we’re lucky, there’s a Junkanoo rush out or two thrown in there.
And then that’s it.
There’s no plan to sustain that momentum. Nothing in place to ensure that we can direct the path of another young athlete to that very same destination. We celebrate the now without a thought to the past and what it took to get there or to the future and how we can improve on the existing model.
We forget about it and move on to the next thing.
There’s no way we can let that happen with this. What happened in Argentina should be a monumental moment that gets us to turn the corner on team sports in the country. Which brings us to the Top 10…
Keep That Same Energy
It’s always a great feeling to have bandwagon fans. Any successful program, team, or superstar needs casuals. It’s the clearest indicator of consistent success and elevated expectations. Those expected to win draw the attention of people with no or just a tangential connection. Diehard fans often take issue with this, but we need to go the other way and welcome this. You want Bahamas Basketball to become a media sensation, you want the narrative of a seemingly “upstart” nation from out of nowhere to make a run at the Olympics. These are the types of things that Disney movies are made of and the things that generate revenue.
Here’s the thing (in my best Pablo Torre voice)…we need our very own casuals to keep this same energy. We know we’re a culture of frontrunners, Bahamians don’t have the vision or foresight to think of sports funding ahead of events. They join the wave of popularity in motion. I’m talking about the politicians, the decision makers who sign checks, the people who use the popularity of nationalism to sports wash their negligence of the same programs they now use to prop up for attention and ad revenue. Those people. Those are the casuals we need to remain invested.
While we celebrate now, it’s easy to forget this program nearly fell apart at the seams in January due to a lack of funding.
Job’s Not Done
Bask in the glow and the glory of this success, but know that there is so much more left to be done because…
WE ARE NOT IN THE OLYMPICS YET!
The literal title of the event is the OLYMPIC PRE-QUALIFYING TOURNAMENT, I had no idea “pre” would have to do so much heavy lifting…but here we are.
The Olympic Tournament is the most exclusive basketball tournament in the world, so you’re not just going to walk in after one tournament.
Winning the Pre-Qualifer was a historic occasion for us, but it’s just the beginning of our stress levels. Now we anxiously wait for next summer, a confirmed date for the final Qualifying Tournament, and hold our collective breath as our players navigate their respective seasons.
The Qualifying format means that our attention has to shift to the World Cup at this point. The standings will determine who gets drawn into what group for July’s final Olympic Qualifier.
Worth Every Penny
The process to get Eric Gordon in a team Bahamas uniform was charted through a labyrinth of bureaucracy, lobbying, and wire transfers. There were so many times that it looked as if it wouldn’t happen that mentally we were already making contingency plans. We’ve been asking EG this question since the inception of 10YS, but the path from the question to the reality was so much more than anyone expected.
USA Basketball was the first hurdle we had to clear. Then the fingers were crossed that FIBA granted clearance for him to change allegiances. Then there was the concern about the leaked roster and what FIBA’s reaction would be (None of this was free by the way, these organizations were not doing this out of the goodness of their hearts). On top of that, the entire process had to be completed by the deadline for his name to be included in the current window to be eligible for this tournament.
The movers and shakers behind the scenes got it done with hours to spare…and it was worth it.
Basketball’s Barcelona 92 Moment?
The Bahamas is a track and field country. It’ll probably always be a track and field country. There’s no matching the international success and historic capital that the sport has built for generations. We’re a small country built better for individual success rather than team sports. In individual sports, you can succeed despite the lack of funding and development avenues afforded to the average local athlete. This is just not possible in team sports.
Wednesday, August 3, marked the 31st anniversary of Frank Rutherford capturing the Bahamas’ first Olympic track and field medal, a bronze in the triple jump at the 1992 games in Barcelona. Since his milestone accomplishment, the Bahamas has medalled in every edition of the summer Olympic Games thereafter.
His effort changed the way the Bahamian fan base viewed excellence in sport, particularly at the Olympics, to a point where a position on the medal podium is expected from a small country of just over 400,000.
Eric Gordon’s 3-point barrage to close out Argentina may have had the same effect on Bahamian basketball when we look back on this moment in 31 years. The program is no longer an afterthought, it proved it belonged on the big stage, twice beating one of the best programs in the world over the past two decades. Now, there’s a level of expectation that will come with this success.
The Nuremberg Boys were in rare form and on full display after we eliminated Argentina from the Paris Olympics 2024 qualification process. Nothing holds a mirror up to society like seeing the privileged take a very public and unsuspecting L to a team (or a people) they deem as inferior.
Because of The Bahamas, Argentina — Olympic champions in 2004 — will miss the games for the first time since 2000. It was the culmination of a horrible year for the program. Six months ago, they failed to qualify for the FIBA World Cup for the first time since 1982. This is how they wound up in the Olympic Pre-Qualifying Tournament in the first place.
Not making the Olympics was something that Argentinian basketball fans hoped that they would never have to face. The Golden Generation – highlighted by names like Ginobli, Scola, and Nocioni made the quarterfinals of the last five Olympics.
Well, the “Golden Generation” ain’t walking through that door. Argentinian fans had to deal with the sobering reality of not one but two losses to The Bahamas and the end of the Paris 2024 dream…in their own gym.
They reacted the way we expected them to once the gravity of the loss set in all across Argentina. Social media was littered with what Argentinians REALLY thought. It started with just the hypocrisy and saltiness of Eric Gordon’s status and if it had stayed there we could have had a back-and-forth but the comments section is a special place in hell where racism, sexism, and every other sort of ism gets to thrive in anonymity.
When you combine the hurt of knowing that it’s clear your team of white guys is completely overwhelmed by a team of black guys, the anonymity of the Internet, and a people born in a culture where accepting Nazi war criminals was acceptable – then you can imagine what those comments sections looked like.
We’ll see y’all in 2028. Be easy.
This Politician Deserves It
One of the worst parts of Bahamian culture is our unexplainable need to treat politicians like rock stars. It’s almost as if our collective brain goes “This person did something extraordinary on the international stage. I have to know what the minister thinks about this…NOW!” Some politician helicopters in to attach him/herself to that success, smile, pose, and gives some generic stump speech nobody cares about.
This story does not involve that politician.
This politician – Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, Mario Bowleg deserved to be there to take in this moment. When he served as president of the Bahamas Basketball Federation, Bowleg saw the organization through difficult times – a constant struggle for funding, getting the best roster together, and being the head coach all at the same time.
The genesis for so much of this plan came about when Bowleg was at the helm. He has a relationship with the players, and he knows the intricacies of the process. For him, this had to feel like watching a culture he was raised in reach the apex.
We won’t mind hearing these speeches.
Travis Munnungs Deserves A Shot
The big 3 grabbed headlines, but Team Bahamas doesn’t get this win without Munnings’ contribution. While in training camp in Puerto Rico, news broke that Munnings was signing with EB Orthez, in France, so it’s safe to say he made a good first impression.
Munnings averaged 11.5 points and 3.3 rebounds on 67 % shooting from the field and 57 % shooting from 3 and his games against Argentina were invaluable in getting The Bahamas over the hump.
Game 1: 20 points, 8-8 fg, 3-3 3pt fg
Game 2: 16 points, 5-10 fg, 3-7 3pt fg
In addition to that, he was this team’s best perimeter defender all tournament long. DA credited Munnings for “quarterbacking the defense” down the stretch against Argentina in the championship game.
Coming out of ULM Munnings was invited to several pre-draft camps and flirted with the Summer League before eventually turning pro in Europe. After several productive years in Portugal and moving up the Pro B ladder in France, Travis continues to gain notoriety with his performances at the national team level. If he continues this level of production alongside NBA pros, is it that far-fetched to think he can survive in a league full of them?
Pay Attention To The Sidelines
For all the attention that is paid to the heroes on the court…and deservedly so, Bahamas Bahamasketbal should be just as excited about what’s happening on the sidelines. Chris DeMarco taking over at the helm brought a level of NBA pedigree that was necessary with the trajectory we were headed, but there is also an influx of Division I talent across several levels that leads you to believe the program is in good hands.
During the World Cup Qualifiers Coach Yo joined the senior men for the first time. The most decorated (and busiest) coach in Bahamian history lending her expertise was as rewarding for the players as it was for her to display that leadership skillset transitioning men’s basketball. Mikhail McLean recently made the move from Houston to an Assistant Coach at Lamar and has been on the sidelines next to Demarco and Moses Johnson for every major Bahamas win. Add Tum Tum Nairn to the mix – Assistant Coach at Bowling Green and the starting point guard on the floor. Behind the scenes, former national team player LJ Rose – International Scout for the Houston Rockets – now serves as the Director of Operations for Bahamas basketball.
The coaching staff may be just as stacked as the roster
Leaders Of The New School
A culture of success is the greatest motivator in building sustainability and a desire in the next generation. The talent in the pipeline is rich and ready to compete for roster spots: AJ Storr (Wisconsin), Frederick King (Creighton), Sammy Hunter (Akron), Romad Dean (Fordham), Lathaniel Bastian (Cal State Fullerton), VJ Edgecombe (HS 2023 – Uncommitted), and Donavan Freeman (Syracuse) headline the list of possibilities, but the culture is already trending in the right direction.
Lurking In The Shadows
The team has been sponsored by ANTA for years, and there’s zero affiliation anyone in The Bahamas has with ANTA…other than this guy.
Let the work in the background work, keep your fingers crossed, picket outside of the FIBA offices if you have to…and stay woke.